Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lakers aren't all there, making loss to Suns a little more painful

It's impossible to miss him as you walk down the long hallway outside the Phoenix Suns locker room.

Steve Nash is pictured there on the colorful walls, hoisting an NBA MVP trophy above his floppy hair, not far from the big, bold orange numbers highlighting his key stats with the Suns.
It's impossible to miss him as you walk down the long hallway outside the Phoenix Suns locker room.

It's far too late for him to make any contributions to the Lakers, who eagerly fired off two first-round draft picks and two second-rounders to get him from Phoenix in July 2012. He announced several months ago he wouldn't be playing this season, the last of his contract, because of recurring back problems.

But Lakers Coach Byron Scott continues to envision Nash as a sideline mentor. He really does. He said as much before yet another Lakers loss, 115-100, Monday against the Suns at US Airways Center.

"I still haven't given up hope on that. I would still like him to come around and I think so would Mitch," Scott said, referring to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. "If for nothing else, just to talk to [rookie] Jordan Clarkson, just to help him and tutor him a little bit. That would be great.

"But again, as we've been talking about all season long, he has to feel OK about that and some guys handle not being able to play . . . a lot sooner than others."

Not much happens for the Lakers (12-30) when Kobe Bryant sits for "rest" reasons, the case Monday for the eighth time in the last 15 games. He might play Wednesday in New Orleans or Friday in San Antonio. No one really knows.

Nick Young had 24 points after a nice fourth-quarter outburst but the Lakers had 23 turnovers and were swept by the Suns for only the third time in the 47-year history of their season series.

So it was easy to talk about Nash. He'll turn 41 in a couple of weeks and continue to collect $9.7 million from the Lakers this season.

Shortly after declaring his desire to sit, Nash irritated fans when he posted an Instagram photo of himself whacking golf balls at a driving range. He also posted shots of hiking in Arizona and, more recently, traveling to Argentina to hang with a soccer team.

The Lakers maintain they don't care. Nor are they frustrated with Nash, who stopped by the team facility before Christmas but has been otherwise absent.

"Not at all. Especially for myself and Mitch and guys who have played in this league and have had to retire and know what you go through when you retire," Scott said. "I don't think any of us feel there's any type of pressure to try to bring him back anytime soon."

Other than Young's scoring outburst, the news of note involved rookie center Tarik Black, who was helped off the court by Robert Sacre and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti after sustaining a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter.

X-rays were negative and it was unclear when Black would return, though he said it wasn't "that bad."

Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas each had 24 points for Phoenix (25-18) to extend the Lakers' losing streak to five games.

When it ends is anybody's guess.